No clear path for golden rice to reach consumers

February 07, 2020

Heralded as a genetically modified crop with the potential to save millions of lives, Golden Rice has just been approved as safe for human and animal consumption by regulators in the Philippines. The rice is a beta carotene-enriched crop that is intended to reduce Vitamin A deficiency (VAD), a health problem in very poor areas.

But a new study finds that most families at risk for VAD can't grow Golden Rice themselves, and most commercial farmers won't grow it either.

"Many families with Vitamin A deficient kids don't even have rice land to plant it," said Glenn Davis Stone, professor of sociocultural anthropology and environmental studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author of a new paper in the journal Technology in Society. "And those in the mountains won't plant it because it has been bred into the lowland varieties of rice known as IR-64 and RSC-82."

The regulatory approval in the Philippines is a landmark for the scientists who developed Golden Rice for nutritional purposes. It is the first such approval in the developing world. But even after nearly three decades of development, Golden Rice is still beset by problems, according to Stone.

Golden Rice still has to be approved for commercial sale, and it still needs a company to grow marketable quantities of seed. And even then, Stone argues, there is no clear path for the rice to get to poor children.

Stone, an internationally recognized expert on the human side of global agricultural trends, was an early advocate for keeping an open mind about 'humanitarian' GMO crops, such as Golden Rice. Since 2013, he has directed a major Templeton Foundation-funded research project on rice in the Philippines.

Stone's new study is based on surveys and interviews of more than 115 rice farmers in the Nueva Ecija region, considered part of the 'rice bowl' of the Philippines.

Writing in the Feb. 7 issue of The Conversation, Stone and his study co-author Dominic Glover, a rice researcher at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, suggest that backers of Golden Rice -- and even some economists who have tried to project its health impacts -- have made certain flawed assumptions about farmers' willingness to plant the crop.

"The old claim, repeated again in a recent book, that Golden Rice was 'basically ready for use in 2002' is silly," Stone and Glover wrote. "As recently as 2017, IRRI made it clear that Golden Rice still had to be 'successfully developed into rice varieties suitable for Asia, approved by national regulators, and shown to improve vitamin A status in community conditions.'

"The Philippines has managed to cut its childhood VAD rate in half with conventional nutrition programs. If Golden Rice appears on the market in the Philippines by 2022, it will have taken over 30 years of development to create a product that may not affect vitamin levels in its target population, and that farmers may need to be paid to plant."

Washington University in St. Louis

Related Rice Articles from Brightsurf:

C4 rice's first wobbly steps towards reality
An international long-term research collaboration aimed at creating high yielding and water use efficient rice varieties, has successfully installed part of the photosynthetic machinery from maize into rice.

Rice has many fathers but only two mothers
University of Queensland scientists studied more than 3000 rice genotypes and found diversity was inherited through two maternal genomes identified in all rice varieties.

Rice rolls out next-gen nanocars
Rice University researchers continue to advance the science of single-molecule machines with a new lineup of nanocars, in anticipation of the next international Nanocar Race in 2022.

3D camera earns its stripes at Rice
The Hyperspectral Stripe Projector captures spectroscopic and 3D imaging data for applications like machine vision, crop monitoring, self-driving cars and corrosion detection.

Climate change could increase rice yields
Research reveals how rice ratooning practices can help Japanese farmers increase rice yields.

Breeding new rice varieties will help farmers in Asia
New research shows enormous potential for developing improved short-duration rice varieties.

High-protein rice brings value, nutrition
A new advanced line of rice, with higher yield, is ready for final field testing prior to release.

Rice plants engineered to be better at photosynthesis make more rice
A new bioengineering approach for boosting photosynthesis in rice plants could increase grain yield by up to 27 percent, according to a study publishing January 10, 2019 in the journal Molecular Plant.

Can rice filter water from ag fields?
While it's an important part of our diets, new research shows that rice plants can be used in a different way, too: to clean runoff from farms before it gets into rivers, lakes, and streams.

Rice plants evolve to adapt to flooding
Although water is essential for plant growth, excessive amounts can waterlog and kill a plant.

Read More: Rice News and Rice Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to